Tuesday, May 31, 2011
Well, clockwise, you have something like duck and omelette, tempura, grilled fish, grilled beef, sashimi, and boiled vegetables (in light starch sauce, not clear soup). There were a few minor standouts, but you (and your guests) are really meant to be impressed more by the variety and size. I was duly overwhelmed.
My imaginary guests, less so.
Thursday, May 26, 2011
Ominous, the sky. I was heading up to Akihabara to buy a radioactive giant saber-toothed turtle action figure (Americans make the wierdest requests of people coming home on vacation) and figured I'd combine it with lunch.
I also combined it with a picture of the 'Loving Hut' truck, which is just like that Natural Hand place, only it's a restaurant chain run by religious zealots.
Enter the restaurant. Sit at the burnished wood counter, glowing with the polish of countless post-tonkatsu cleanings. (That was today's Kleindl moment right there.)
[Eek, I'm going the Full Kleindl here, aren't I.]
Yamaichi on the Tabelogz (#9, #10 in Tokyo). You could warm up with this place, but once you understand the genre enough to be ready for the big leagues, that's your stadium.
Journalistic integrity, all that.
Tuesday, May 24, 2011
Well good, I'm glad we could all agree on that. And how could you not agree that it's a good place? Look at that banner! It's screaming "Good sake here." Another tip - if you can figure out how to work the ancient elevator, take it to the top floor, get out, and walk up another level to the bizarre, time-out-of-mind store that takes up that partial floor and a detached shed on the roof. Kyobashi is a bit dead, being between Nihonbashi and Ginza, but it hides a bunch of quirky little restaurants and galleries.
Over the course of two nights this week (yes, I liked it that much), the owner recommended a number of oddities - the Ouroku from Shimane was outstanding, the Asahi Wakamatsu from Tokushima was bizarre (more like a distilled liqueur), and the Yorokobi Gaijin, Jikon, Tomonori, and everything else we tried were fresh and delicious.
At one point I teased the owner, a self-described 'sake nerd' despite his tough aspect and sorta surfer demeanor, about the inclusion of Dassai in his list - "You can get that anywhere!" He was all over that challenge, pointing out immediately that if you read the rest of the description you'll see it's not normal Dassai 50, it's actually raw and unfiltered. Mea culpa. He's a good guy for a conversation and a recommendation.
the catch is just thrown on tarps to dry in the sun.
Going L-R and down, there's that tofu again, then dried, grilled firefly squid (nice except the hardened pips of the eyeballs). The hot caprese is quirky - a grilled tomato topped with cheese and surrounded with pesto, while the pork-wrapped asparagus was so nice I got it twice. The beef tendon was delicious - meltingly soft, and mostly meat instead of actual tendon. The grilled (Seki) mackerel looks like hell but tastes great, and the fried chicken was generously portioned and a masterpiece of frying. Finishing with the grilled rice balls is a typical Woodsman move, and these were nicely moistened with soy sauce and grilled very appropriately. It's a fine balance.
This place is finely balanced too, and if you stay balanced when you go, you'll feel fine.
Monday, May 23, 2011
This place hasn't been open for long, and I can't help feeling they're riding the crest of a crashing wave - surely brick-heavy, artery-clogging ramen can't have long to run as the leading genre? Well, while it's here it's good.
Incidentally, howzabout those sprouts? How did the manly men who love Jiro ramen decide that a big pile of boiled bean sprouts was the perfect way to add height and volume? It's a mystery.
The soup is quite good, the noodles are quite good...the pork deserves special mention. In a genre where everyone is trying to look for an edge to make their product more intense, this pork has a black exterior from being...soaked in soy sauce. It's a little much.
They get some good height here. Quality. Respect.
Sunday, May 22, 2011
Do you think it's weird to eat ramen at Tsukiji? I wouldn't worry about it. The sushi restaurants are really there for the tourists; the workers don't want to look at fish all day and then eat sushi, you know?
This would be a nice place to start a ramen quest if you were on vacation in Tokyo (I mean, assuming you didn't want to go a few stations east to Bigakuya, which is the same style but, as the name implies, is clearly the result of careful study and dedicated attempts to achieve perfection.). I see from the comments on Tabelog that Japanese people think this is weak and a little boring (one comment implied this was so weak you could still appreciate the delicate flavors of sushi afterward). So sad that they've forgotten their simple, humble roots, isn't it?
The word you're looking for here is 'zeitaku', I think.
Friday, May 20, 2011
I spent the longest time looking at this ramen place called Satou on Yasukuni Dori in the heart of the Jimbocho sporting goods area - "Have I gone here yet? It looks familiar. And I don't think it was that good."
Ahhh, the dilemmas that haunt my lunch. It turns out that the ramen place looks nothing like the mediocre one I was thinking of except for the size and shape of the counter.
But in the course of dithering, I noticed there was a Thai place right next to it. Problem solved. The first Thai place I loved in Tokyo was the Tinun in Jimbocho (I can't believe I've never blogged Tinun. It's wacky considering that I've been to branches in Ginza, Kinshicho, Jimbocho, Yotsuya and maybe Omotesando. I still recommend it despite the profusion of copycats - all of which are perfectly acceptable.) so I'm partial to Thai around here.
Thursday, May 19, 2011
per se, it's just a well-used space serving an inherently greasy product. Reminds me of a teppanyaki place - it's a greasy food, so they take pains to ventilate as well as making things out of marble and steel and other materials that can be scrubbed until they bleed. Here, they're giving everything a good wipe. It feels well-used.
dregs when you sit down. Why, I don't know. But everyone gets a small mug of this coffee, which was iced (I imagine it's seasonal). Coffee and curry is a classic combination in Japan (and often it goes with jazz; beats me).
Two Girls One Cup, don't go.
Your options for toppings cover a range of fried nuggets and slabs, plus wieners. Pork cutlet seemed to be the most popular choice, but I've done that and wanted to try something different, so this is the other popular option - fried shumai. The fry is so thick and fluffy and crunchy that it's hard to notice the shumai inside; I couldn't tell if they were pork or shrimp or crab or what. Maybe they were fry-filled fried shumai.
condiments. There are containers of chili powder on the counter. I don't recommend them, but the guy next to me does. I just found that it didn't integrate or even match with the style of curry. If they simmered it in for an hour or three, I'm sure it would be good. As a topping, not so much.
buckets of them all along the counter. A dream come true, really, because my main concern with these is eating up everything that's in whatever dainty container is provided, or else how to use the little tongs to get a solid pile onto my plate. Man, these were good.
Wednesday, May 18, 2011
Carp is obviously not new - it's well-used and a bit greasy. But you'd be greasy too if your main feature was a griddle, and all your food was fried on it. I can't really imagine what you'd look like if your main feature was a griddle though.
Actually that's a point - maybe the staff is really from Hiroshima like it says on the sign. They were very southern in their lack of Tokyo politesse.
I thought I was pretty clever, finding this place. Then I came back to the office and told a colleague who really likes high volume junk food. I said "I had okonomiyaki in Kanda," and he said "Oh, was it Carp? Did you get double-noodles?" I'm glad I didn't know it was an option.
I've got a card on my desk that a colleague gave me for a birthday years ago. It says "YOU ARE ONLY YOUNG ONCE, BUT YOU CAN STAY IMMATURE INDEFINITELY."
It says "-OGDEN NASH-" after that, so it's not like someone at Hallmark is wonderfully creative.
If you wanted to eat at the source, drink from the font, that sort of thing, you could visit the original shop in Hiroshima's 'Okonomiyaki Village' (since 1976). Looks like this one is better though.
Tuesday, May 17, 2011
After a lot of walking around in a dangerously dithering state (all the untried places looked crappy), I came upon MaMa.
"OMG, you are such a dolk," that sort of thing.
Monday, May 16, 2011
La Loggia in Roppongi, who kept on the Italian theme long after they were making nothing but curry and naan. This fat white man with his white-man cake promises great things. Great Indian things.
mock, really I don't. The soft slap-slap of the chef making fresh naan let me know things were authentic, and one bite of chicken curry was enough to confirm that things were tasty. This is possibly the first time I've ever enjoyed a piece of tandoori chicken in a restaurant in Japan - they're always so dry and tasteless. And the curry was truly a cut above.